Two men reported dead as race riots flare in Birmingham over alleged sex attack on girl
23 Oct 2005
At least one man was killed last night in rioting in Birmingham over an alleged sex assault on a black girl by youths of Asian descent. One man was stabbed to death at a takeÂaway food outlet in the Lozells area of the city. Unconfirmed reports said another man also died when a minicab was set alight.
Dozens of youths smashed property and attacked police. Bricks and bottles were thrown, and about 10 injured people, including a police officer, were taken to hospital. In one incident, an ambulance was attacked by a gang wielding sticks.
A police spokesman said: "A large crowd of people gathered at a fast-food business and a violent brawl broke out, during which one person was stabbed in the chest and is certified dead." The disturbances broke out after a week of tension over the alleged sexual attack on a 14-year-old Jamaican girl.
Several arrests have been made, but no charges brought as no one has come forward to lodge an official complaint. Police have carried out forensic science tests, house-to-house inquiries and distributed thousands of leaflets to try to find the alleged victim, who may be an illegal immigrant.
Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, said that he believed that one man had died in the minicab fire. Another vehicle was also set ablaze by the mob. He said: "There are kids driving round and smashing things up and then disappearing before the police can get there."
Alex Thompson, a reporter with the Press Association news agency who drove into the Lozells area, had her car attacked by a running gang of "more than 100 hooded youths with baseball bats". She said: "They hit my car with the bats and kicked it. They also attacked other passing motorists on the main road. They were running past me. I could see police with shields following them."
A police helicopter hovered above the area with its searchlight trained on Lozells Road, where much of the violence was taking place. India Murray, the landlady of the Union Inn in Lozells, said she locked her doors after the pub windows were smashed. "All the windows have been put through and we are waiting for someone to come out and board them up," said Mrs Murray.
She said that tensions had been mounting in the area for the past four or five days with outbreaks of sporadic violence. "It has been building up to it for the past few days. There was a protest along Lozells Road earlier today and all the shops were closed but it all kicked off about 6pm." She said that she had locked herself and her few remaining customers in the pub for their own safety.
Lozells is not new to racial tension. There is a strong Afro-Caribbean presence - the biggest contingent among the black population originating from Jamaica. Asian gangs have also grown up in the area, and there has been simmering tension between the two racial groups. Often trouble has related to drugs - mainly heroin - and gun crime.
The local ambulance service said one of its vehicles had been attacked with sticks. A spokesman said: "The two members of staff that were inside are all right, and the vehicle has been withdrawn from the scene."